A good sleeping bag is the key to a good night’s sleep outdoors, and the key requirements are general comfort coupled with adequate insulation. While most brands can keep you warm, only Mont Bell makes a sleeping bag that flexes and stretches as you move in the night, so that trapped pockets of air remain close to your body.
A World Patent protects the Mont Bell Super Stretch system, which incorporates horizontal elastic stitching. Mountain Equipment has used a similar system in a small section of its bags under licence from Mont Bell, but only the Mont Bell range has the stretch working throughout the length of the bag for the ultimate in thermal efficiency and comfort.
All this stretch keeps the insulation close to the body, no matter how much that body moves or what weird shapes it throws. The result is a much better night‘s sleep as warm air is always trapped close to you.
There is a wide choice of bags in the Mont Bell range, but the one I got to grips with was the Super Stretch Down Hugger #7. This has a temperature rating of 10 deg C, so it’s not very warm. However, it packed down to little more than the size of a couple of pints of bitter and was so light I could forget I had it in my rucksack.
A spring cold snap meant it was not really warm enough for the conditions, but by wearing some extra base layers I got through the night. I liked the stretch, which allowed me to move quite unrestrictedly inside the bag. And as it is very easy to ‘overpower’ the stretch, I never felt like pea in a pod bursting to get out!
Another unusual feature is the foot drawcord, which can shorten the bag. I used this to achieve a closer fit around my ankles, and I quite liked this feature as it meant I kept my feet at the end of the bag, again for maximum efficiency. The hood is not the most profiled of designs, though it worked okay, and there is no shoulder baffle. This bag does not feel super-cosy either, basically because it has such a small amount of insulation. It tends to float around the body, rather than hug you like a winter duvet on a bed tends to do.
However, pack this bag into its stuffsack, crank down the compression and it disappears in a rucksack, making it ideal for summer trips in fine weather.
A sleeping bag like this will keep you warm enough in warm-ish weather, but what it’s really about is providing a higher level of comfort than it suggests without weighing you down. For that reason I’d stick to something warmer during cold snaps, but I’d definitely put this at the top of my list for summer camping trips.
Insulation: 90/10 800 fill power down
Outer: Polkatex nylon
Inner: Polkatex nylon
Packed size: 25x11cm (compressed)
Weight: 548g (including stuffsack, 24g)
Temperature rating: 10 deg C
Made in: China
Verdict: A super-lightweight summer sleeping bag that is more comfortable than appearances suggest.